Depression is a mental health condition that causes a slew of unpleasant symptoms- sadness, irritability, loss of pleasure in activities, and fatugue, just to name a few. It's one of the most common mental health disorders, affcting roughly 7% of the population of adults in the U.S.
There are a lot of reasons that a person may become depressed, including stressful or painful life events, disappointments, and loss. And there is definitely a "chemical" component to depression- meaning, the brain chemistry- the actual neurotransmitters that carry messages between the brain and body- undergoes changes that render it less than effective at transmitting these signals. It's this chemical component that can also be impacted by the vitamins and minerals we eat, or don't eat, enough of. Read on to learn more and three vitamins/minerals that can have a big impact on your mental health!
Serotonin is an important neurotransmitter in the body with several jobs, including modulating mood, and influencing learning, memory, and happiness. It impacts other body functions as well, but for the purpose of this blog post, we'll stick with those related to mood. Anyway- a lack of serotonin negatively impacts mood and contributes to depression and anxiety symptoms. So it's important that our serotinin levels be adequate because otherwise, we're more likely to feel depressed or anxious.
Homocysteine is an amino acid that is converted into two other substances (methionine and cysteine) that out bodies need to create proteins and keep our arteries and live healthy. Too much homocysteine is not a good thing- it can impact brain functioning and lead to changes in mood and depressive symptoms.
Okay. I get it- Serotonin and Homocysteine are important. What's this got to do with what I eat?
Several vitamins and minerals impact the creation or function of serotonin and homocysteine- so when these vitamins or minerals are deficient, they can either contribute to lower serotonin levels or higher homocysteine levels- neither of which is good, and both which contribute to depressed mood and anxiety. Check out some of what research has shown:
We all know that our bodies need vitamin D, and that our bodies can make vitamin D if exposed to enough direct sunlight. Decreased levels of vitamin D, however, have been associated with lower levels of serotinin and higher levels of depressed mood.
Up to half of Americans are magnesium deficient- are you? Magnesium is a micronutrient that contributes to many biological processes. Studies have shown that in people who are magnesium deficient, supplementing with magnesium can reduce their depressive symptoms.
Vitamin B Complex
Vitamin B Complex- that's vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B7, B9, AND B12)- contains a s et of vitamins that are involved in many biological processes. Specifically, vitamins B6 and B12 are involved in homocysteine break down. When these vitamins are low, homocysteine doesn't break own properly- and we already know why that's bad! Too much homocysteine can cause depressive symptoms, as explained above. Vitamin B9 deficiency is also associated with increased depressive symptoms, so it's important to make sure that these B vitamins are in sufficient supply.
What Do I Do With This Information?
Talk to your doctor about making sure that your vitamin and mineral levels are sufficient. Although not a cure for depression. anxiety, making sure that your levels are adequate can go a long way towards supporting stable mood, and reducing depressive/axious symptoms.